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House of the Diadumeni

Description of the House (Reg IX, Ins 1, 20)

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The house has an unusual arrangement with regard to its vestibule and fauces. The vestibule (b) had a triple door fronting the street which would have been left open during the daytime. Visitors would generally enter the house by way of a small door on the right of the vestibule, the large double doors between the vestibule and fauces only being opened for the reception of clients or special guests.
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The small fauces (c) opens onto a rectangular atrium (d) dominated by 16 Doric columns 4.3m high (pictured above and upper right) set around a central impluvium. In contrast with the high halls of the houses of Sallust and the Faun, here the atrium has become more of a court than a hall. On the edge of the north side of the impluvium is the pedestal for a fountain figure which threw a jet of water into a basin resting on two rectangular stands. The atrium has lost all of its original decoration save for a few plaster remnants.
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On either side of the atrium are two alae (e and f) which are separated from the atrium by matching pairs of Ionic columns. At the corners of the entrances are pilasters, the Corinthian capitals of which have a female head, now much worn, looking out from the midst of acanthus leaves. In the eastern ala (f) is an elaborate temple style household shrine (pictured right) which has a dedicatory inscription which tells us that it was erected by two freedmen named Diadumeni, (hence the name of the house) to the Lares and the Genius of their master Marcus. Both alae were decorated shortly before the eruption in the fourth style, but this decoration is now much faded.
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On either side of the atrium are a series of small rooms, three of which certainly were cubicula (h, i and j) for members of the family; some of the others were so poorly decorated that they may have been intended for slaves.

To the right of the tablinum, off the north east corner of the atrium, is the triclinium.  Once richly decorated in the fourth style, it is now too faded to appreciate properly. According to August Mau in his book 'Pompeii: its Life and Art' the decoration consisted of a series of paintings illustrating the contest between Apollo and Marsyas set on white panels between bands of architectural motifs.
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The House of the Diadumeni lies on the north side of the Via dell'Abbondanza, just east of its junction with the Via Stabiana. Also known as the House of M. Epidius Rufus, the frontage of the building is set back a metre or so from that of the adjoining houses allowing the construction of a raised terrace about 1.3m above street level with access by way of a narrow flight of steps (a) at either end (pictured below and in the reconstruction of the facade lower left).
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The house was first excavated between 1858 and 1866. A Samnite house, it was built in the second half of the 2nd century BC. In one respect it resembles the oldest Pompeian houses, such as that of the House of the Surgeon where, in place of the peristyle is a garden extending back from a colonnade at the rear of the tablinum.
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On the northern side of the atrium is the tablinum (g) which has a large window overlooking the garden to the rear. Like the atrium there are some plaster remnants, but these are far too faded to allow a definitive description of the original fresco decoration.
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The domestic apartments were reached by the andron (l) to the west of the tablinum. In the kitchen (m), which opens off the west side of the colonnade (o), is a broad hearth (pictured left). The small room at the entrance was perhaps a store room. The latrines, as was often the case, were in the corner of the kitchen.

In the house there was originally no upper floor, but at some time a large room, probably a triclinium, was built over the kitchen. There may also have been one or two small store rooms at the top of the stairs (n) which were built in one of the side rooms off the atrium.

At the east end of the colonnade is possibly the gardener's room (p). The main part of the garden (q) appears to have been used for growing vegetables while the small raised section at the far north end was possibly a flower garden. There is a secondary entrance or posticum in the north east corner of the garden which opens onto the Vicolo di Balbo at No.30.
* Images ©Jackie and Bob Dunn are reproduced by permission from their website at www.pompeiiinpictures.com
(Su concessione del Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali: Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei)




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